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How do I Remove Impacted Ear Wax?

Diane Goettel
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In some cases, removing impacted ear wax must be done by a doctor or trained medical professional, but there are a few methods that can be tried at home before seeking professional help. The most common method requires only an eye dropper and cotton balls. There are a few products that can be used to help loosen the ear wax so that it can drain. These products are vegetable glycerin, which can be found at stores that specialize in vitamins and at-home remedies, and baby oil, which can be found at almost all grocery stores and drug stores. For those who are experiencing pain in the ear, it is best to go directly to a healthcare professional instead of using these techniques.

Those who try the at-home treatment can perform it on their own, but it's often much easier to have a friend or family member help. First, tilt the head to one side so that the affected ear is raised toward the ceiling. Then put three or four drops of vegetable glycerin or baby oil into the ear canal. Some people find that using a bit more of the liquid product works well, but beginning with just a few drops is a good way to start.

Once the liquid has been dropped into the ear canal, seal off the canal with a small cotton ball. Keep the cotton in place for up to 24 hours, but remove it before showering or bathing. Be careful and gentle during this process. While bathing, rinse the ear with warm water to help the ear wax drain out of the ear.

In some cases, it may be necessary to repeat this process to remove all of the impacted wax from the ear canal. If this process does not work, it may be necessary to have a medical professional remove the impacted ear wax. Medical professionals have small, delicate tools that are used specifically for this purpose, some of which involve the use of suction to pull the wax out of the ear canal.

It is important to avoid using rigid objects when trying to remove impacted wax from the ears. Doing so can damage the ear canal and the ear drum. Many experts believe it is best not to use cotton swabs when trying to remove ear wax as they may simply push the wax further into the ear canal.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By KoiwiGal — On Jun 29, 2011

@pastanaga - I did do some research on the ear wax cleaning candles, which were available from my local drug store, if you can believe it.

Apparently it was claimed that they were originally used by a Native American tribe (sometimes the Hopi, sometimes a different one).

The tribe that is most often said to have used them have come straight out and said they never did (because it would be stupid).

Personally, I would go straight past the candles to the bottles of ear wax cleaner which only cost a few dollars.

Or better yet, I would go to a different drug store that didn't support such quackery and ridiculous cures.

By pastanaga — On Jun 28, 2011

@Mor - You have to be extremely careful with that kind of thing as one wrong move could seriously harm your ear drum.

People do silly things to remove wax. I used to let hot water run into my ear in the shower, but then I was told that could easily lead to ear infections.

People also use ear wax candles, which are supposed to somehow draw out impurities from your ear. They show you the "impurities" afterwards.

In reality they are just showing you the burnt wax, and ear wax candles put you at huge risk of burning yourself and damaging your hearing.

As an ear wax removal remedy it is one of the worst and I would encourage people to do some research on it before considering it.

By Mor — On Jun 27, 2011

My sister works as an audiologist and she is always talking about the best way to get wax out of an ear. She says you should absolutely not use cotton buds as they will push the wax deeper and probably hurt your ear in the process.

She always tells me to put a few drops of olive oil in my ear at night and use an old pillow case. The wax should soften and drip out overnight.

I would recommend going to an audiologist, but if you are desperate she also sometimes, very gently, uses a hair pin (with a rounded edge) to pull out wax.

You could try getting someone to do this for you.

But if ear wax has block your ear and is deep enough to be bothering you, you probably need someone who has the proper instruments to see where the wax is and get it out.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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